To avoid being outflanked by an upstart Internet company, businesses need to throw out their legacy IT infrastructure and start all over again, Larry Ellison, Oracle's chairman and CEO, said in a provocative, if fanciful, speech here last week.
"Your problem is all the junk you've bought over the last 20 years," Ellison said, addressing a hall packed with IT professionals at the Business Week Conference on the Digital Economy.
Companies need a centralised IT system in which all their data is stored in a handful of large servers, the Oracle chief said. Applications for sales-force automation, human-resources management and accounting should come from a single vendor so that they can be tightly integrated and used more productively, he said.
"It has to be global, and it has to all work together. If you keep buying best-of-breed applications and gluing them together you're never going to know what's going on in your company. Your data is so hopelessly fragmented you don't even know who your customers are."
Ellison assumed part of the blame for the situation. "At Oracle it occurred to me that what we have is wrong. What we've been selling to our customers is wrong. What our competitors have been selling is wrong," Ellison said. The software industry is "immature" and has been leading its customers down the wrong path, he added.
"This is a very bizarre speech," he admitted. "People are going to walk out of here and say, 'There's no way I'm going to throw everything away.' But that's what you have to do."
By James Niccolai